On stories and storytelling: “We tell ourselves into being, don’t we?”

On stories and storytelling: “We tell ourselves into being, don’t we?”

The other day, a friend sent me a link to the following article in The Spectator (Click here)

It is an interview with the well-known British-Indian author Salman Rushdie.  There is one passage where I find him particularly insightful and articulate on the topic of human beings and their use of stories.  Here is a part of what he says:

“We tell ourselves into being, don’t we? I think that is one of the great reasons for stories. I mean, we are the storytelling animal, there is no other creature on earth that tells itself stories in order to understand who it is. This is what we do; we’ve always done it, whether they are religious stories or personal stories, or tall stories, or lies, or useful stories, we live by telling each other and telling ourselves the stories of ourselves.”

When I saw this quote, it reminded me once more of the power of story, and of its role in everyday life.  We tell ourselves into being. In other words, the stories we tell create us.

Our personal stories are the core element of life.  We live by telling each other and telling ourselves the stories of ourselves.

In essence, we swim in a sea of intertwined narratives.   In our minds every day are the stories we tell ourselves, the ones we exchange with others, along with the ones we imagine telling or would like to tell.  All of these stories are then reworked into our master narrative, the story of our own lives that we relate constantly to ourselves, in an ongoing virtual monologue.

As we navigate through life, most of us are not aware of how much narrative processes dominate our thinking.   However, when we stop to consider the way our minds work, we realize that we are constantly creating and updating our own plot line, inventing and reinventing our existence, by means of the stories we tell—and come to believe—about ourselves.

In fact, we spend most of our time telling ourselves the stories of ourselves.

There is no other creature on earth that tells itself stories in order to understand who it is. Our personal stories, the ones we tell ourselves constantly, are the way we understand and order our world.  In a sense, we organize the world around us to fit into our stories.

Humans create their sense of who they are and what matters to them, of how they should act and why they do what they do, by referring consciously or unconsciously to the stories they are living in their minds.  I can only answer the questions, Who am I?, What do I believe?, or What am I to do?, by answering the prior question, To what stories do I belong?

 

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